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How to be a big game player

The summer season hasn’t been short of eventful moments in the UK

September 2018

The summer season hasn’t been
short of eventful moments in the
UK. From political shakes-ups to
sporting triumph (and loss), the glorious
weather at least has been able to keep
smiles on our faces.
Recent events across the political and
sporting sphere in particular have
brought the subject of leadership to the
forefront. England’s World Cup
performance is particularly notable.
Historically, the Football Association (FA)
has gone for ‘big name’ managers that
haven’t lasted, but with Gareth Southgate
they made a conscious decision to
develop a manager familiar with the
national structure and players as part of
a longer-term strategy. He’s risen through
the ranks from player to manager. That
means he has the confidence to take
some big risks and nurture younger
talent without the same pressure of
instant success.
From the England team's unexpected
football success we can see the benefits
of investing in that strategic approach in
both the performances but also the
goodwill that has been created around it.
It feels like a long-term management
project rather than short-term one.
In the business world, we’ve seen
share prices of companies such as Intel
and WPP fall after the chief executive
has quit due to concerns over leadership.
Conversely, when Vodafone CEO Vittorio
Colao stood down in May he was
replaced by the CFO – an accountant –
who had been groomed as his successor,
so there was less uncertainty.

Management advice:
Leadership is one of the most written
about subjects. You just have to browse
bookshop shelves to see the top-selling
business titles are mostly focused on
leadership and management techniques,
how to win and how to succeed.
Becoming a great leader should be an
aspiration of any hopeful finance
professional.
Leadership is a critical area for the UK
economy. Addressing the poor
productivity among UK plcs, Andy
Haldane, chief economist and executive
director of monetary analysis and
statistics at the Bank of England, has
previously said Britain needs to improve
the quality of its managers if it is to be
competitive on the global stage.
According to the Chartered Management
Institute (CMI), four out of five British
bosses are ‘accidental managers’ who
have never been trained, and only one in
five companies invest in training their
managers, resulting in an estimated 2.4
million untrained managers.
ACCA recently carried out research
into this. The results from a UK-wide poll
revealed a quarter (23%) of British
workers don’t think there’s training for
potential leaders before they move into
leadership positions and more than a
fifth (22%) say there aren’t support
structures in place for people who move
into management positions. Investors in
People have estimated that poor
management costs our economy £84bn
each year. Without the correct
leadership, UK businesses will continue
to spend more time and money to rectify
the negative impact of poor leadership,
which results in a high turnover; losing
staff with key skills and experience.
As professionals increase their
knowledge of the profession, so do the
opportunities for leadership roles in the
workplace. ACCA supports its students to
become the leaders of today and
tomorrow – the leaders who are in
demand. As a part of the ACCA
qualification re-design, there’s a new
Strategic Business Leader exam which is
designed to mirror the workplace, and
presents students with real-world
challenges that demand insight and
leadership. The exam does this by asking
candidates to take on various roles within
a made-up but very realistic organisation
– such as a consultancy practice, audit
or regulatory authority. We’ve got a series
of sample questions on our website, so
do take a look.
What Strategic Business Leader asks is
very practical, needing students to really
think ahead about what it means to offer
strategic financial and consultancy
advice. For example, one of the
specimen papers asks you to explain the
key weaknesses of an organisation’s
governance structure since it became a
public limited company, recommending
How to be a big
game player
Claire Bennison explains the importance of ACCA’s SBL leadership module
how these weaknesses should be
addressed. Another specimen paper asks
you to prepare a briefing paper for a
railway company board, which identifies
and explains the agency relationship of
the parties involved in that company.

The real world:
These are just the kind of things done in
the workplace of a modern day
accountant – as well of course as
analysing the data and spread sheets.
SBL is then marked on how the task is
completed and whether the objectives of
the task have been achieved, allowing
students to apply the right technical,
ethical and professional skills that would
be expected in work.
The syllabus brings together core areas
from governance, risk and strategy, links
to other leadership areas such as
organisational control, innovation and
change management – and uses new
technologies and data analytics. Through
the latest qualification changes,
employees will be able to unlock the
potential of their own leadership skills -
and ultimately be greater assets to the
organisations they serve.
Finance is the language of business
and aspiring accountants will have a
leading role. So we have every faith that
the PQs reading this will be the great
leaders of tomorrow, the people who
don’t just make an organisation work, but
the people who’ll possess the strategic
oversight and the emotional intelligence
to make a real difference.

• Claire Bennison, ACCA head of UK

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